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Sunday, June 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

WIAA board adopts seeding committees for state tournaments in all team sports

UPDATED: Sat., May 9, 2020

Central Valley’s girls basketball team poses with the trophy  after defeating Woodinville 59-55 in the State 4A title game March 7 in Tacoma. (Patrick Hagerty / For The Spokesman-Review)
Central Valley’s girls basketball team poses with the trophy after defeating Woodinville 59-55 in the State 4A title game March 7 in Tacoma. (Patrick Hagerty / For The Spokesman-Review)

The Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association executive board on Friday approved a resolution to adopt committees to allocate seeding for all state tournaments for team sports, starting with the 2020-21 school year, according to a memo circulated from the organization to league directors.

The WIAA had not made a public announcement as of Saturday evening.

All basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and volleyball state playoff brackets will be determined by a seeding committee made up of coaches, athletic directors, administrators and media.

All games played through district qualifying tournaments will be evaluated.

Football has been seeded in this manner the past two seasons.

The plan further distances the state from seeding playoffs by predetermined draw.

With the changes to classification and alignment for the upcoming school year, tournament brackets may consist of eight, 12, 16 or 20 teams, a departure from the uniform 16-team brackets of the recent past.

Each sport, gender and classification will have a separate seeding committee.

League presidents have until May 27 to nominate candidates to the seeding committees. The WIAA will evaluate the candidates and notify representatives by June 15.

An email to league presidents and WIAA executive board members said each league may nominate two individuals to serve on a committee, but only one from each league will be selected.

The email further stated the WIAA Executive Board “will determine the makeup of each committee, based upon recommendations from the WIAA staff, chair of the RPI committee and the Washington State Coaches Association,” and would take diversity (“gender, ethnicity and position”) into consideration.

According to documents attached to that email, criteria to be considered by the committees for seeding will include travel, avoiding first-round matchups for teams from the same league, and head-to-head results.

Information to be evaluated during the process includes a team’s win-loss record, WIAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), MaxPreps rankings, feedback from knowledgeable media sources and coach/media polls.

“It will be exactly like football,” WIAA sport activities information director Casey Johnson told ScorebookLive.com. “The plan is to still have RPI (rankings) displayed for every sport on our website as a rankings tool. But at the end of the day, the seeding committee will make the decisions.”

District 8 director Herb Rotchford wasn’t part of the vote on Friday, but he approves of the plan.

“I think it’s a good move forward,” he said. “There’s a human factor involved, so it’s not strictly RPI.”

Most people involved with the football committees consider the process a success in producing a fairer, more balanced bracket.

“People were satisfied with it,” Rotchford said. “That’s what really gave it the impetus to include all team sports.”

The committees do not affect how teams qualify for a state tournament, only how they are seeded once they qualify through league play and district playoffs.

Since the 2016-17 school year, basketball has been seeded using a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) system, taking into consideration a team’s record and strength of schedule.

Area coaches were surprised by the news.

“As I process what the change is, I see some merit in my initial gut reaction,” Mt. Spokane girls basketball coach David Pratt said. “The RPI has been the sole basis for the past couple of years as to where teams were to be seeded, and we all know that sometimes those seedings are off.”

“Everyone’s fear, over here, is if you’re going to make it a human element, there’s pros and cons to having a human element,” Gonzaga Prep boys basketball coach Matty McIntyre said.

“In my opinion, the East Side is always underrepresented and underrespected and we’ve proven year-in and year-out we can play and win championships in all classifications.”

RPI had a hard time accounting for out-of-state competition. The hope is the committees can weigh that competition better for seeding purposes.

“The out-of-state thing, that was a problem,” McIntyre said. “I understand they can’t calculate out of state variables, because not everyone is on MaxPreps. We’ve had that happen to us, where we travel out of state to tournaments, give the kids a wonderful experience, and whether you win or lose it hurts your RPI.”

McIntyre said he scheduled four in-state games instead of tournaments this season in part to avoid the potential to hurt the Bullpups’ RPI.

“Most teams are already into (putting together) their nonleague schedule and they’re changing the rules on you.”

When the system was introduced, RPI was calculated on a 25/50/25 formula, attributing 25% based on win/loss percentage, 50% to opponents’ win/loss percentage and 25% to opponents’ win/loss percentage.

The method was tweaked in 2018 to 40/40/20, placing more emphasis on a team’s winning percentage and that of its direct opponents.

“Everything I heard was they were going to keep tweaking RPI, change the percentages, until they got it right,” McIntyre said.

In basketball over the past few seasons, there have been several instances of teams generally recognized as being state title contenders receiving a low RPI score and double-digit seed to a state tourney, then moving on to win the title.

The hope is that a seeding committee will do a better job lining quality teams up to meet later in brackets. In several instances, No. 1 and 2 seeds have met in quarterfinals or earlier, watering down the final rounds.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to go through another system,” Pratt said. “Are we going to keep changing things? But I think there’s validity in taking into consideration more than one ranking system to seed the teams.”

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